Turkey in grip of crisis over rule of law – FT

Turkey is in the grip of a legal crisis after judges defied a decision by the Constitutional Court that would have released two journalists from extended pre-trial detention, the Financial Times reported.

The situation puts pressure on the Council of Europe to act against a deterioration in the rule of law in Turkey under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the FT said.

“The rule of law is one of the main pillars of the Council of Europe,” said Kerem Altıparmak, a leading Turkish human rights scholar. “It should accept there is a rule of law crisis in Turkey. There is no impartiality and independence in the judiciary.”

Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay remain behind bars after Istanbul criminal courts handling their cases refused to obey the Constitutional Court’s decision. The court said on Thursday that their pre-trial detention breached their right to freedom of expression and ordered their release.

The two men are among 160,000 people detained or fired from their jobs in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016. The government says the measures were necessary to counter the threat posed by the Gülen movement, a secretive network of followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen that Ankara says orchestrated the putsch.

Critics say Erdoğan carried out the purge without due process and extended it to envelope a wider range of political opponents.

“Legally, there is no way a court of law can challenge or disobey a decision of the constitutional court,” said Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of law at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, according to the FT. “Whether they like it or not, they need to obey the decision.”

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